When you're granted a public holiday with the title "Australia Day," it could seem pretty obvious what you're celebrating. But what is Australia Day and what's it all about?
Historically Australia Day marks the day in which the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay in 1788 to set up the first European settlement on the continent that would become Australia. While that event may have been a significant milestone in the history of modern Australia, the celebrations that take place on Australia Day are firmly focused on present-day Australia.
Australia Day is a celebration of the present while paying only scant homage to the event that took place on the 26th of January way back in the late 18th century.
Australia Day celebrates the Australian lifestyle and, with summer in full swing, it's all about getting outdoors and on the water. Sydney's Hyde Park overflowed with picnickers searching for a shady spot under the huge Moretin Bay Figs that line the park's boulevards while live entertainment entertained everyone from toddlers to grandparents.
BBQ's sizzled to the sounds of beer caps and chardonnay corks being pulled while people from the many cultural backgrounds that make up Australian mingled as one.
The CBD streets were closed to make way for art and cultural artifacts that embody Australia. More than 100,000 Sydneysiders cruised the streets enjoying what it is to be Australian, even if they weren't quite sure what that meant.
On the water, the Sydney Harbour ferries were decked out with costumes for the Annual Sydney Harbour Ferry Race while a flotilla of pleasure boats jostled for the best vantage spot. The Sydney Harbour foreshore rocked into the evening with five stages of free, live acts as diverse as the Aussie crowd watching.
With modern Australia evolving at such a rapid place, it's great to be able to take a day off, look around and celebrate what Australia is now.
Murray Fraser is the Program Director for CEA Global Education in Sydney, Australia. He is responsible for the day-to-day management including student services, host institution relations, program academics, and more. He was born in Queensland and moved to Sydney in 2001 to further his career in International Education.
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